The article below was originally written by Dr. J. Berrien Lindsley and appeared in a Nashville newspaper. The article was republished in by Douglas Anderson many years later. I have not yet found the name or date of the paper in which Lindsley's article was first published.
By Douglas Anderson
Old Nashville occupied a very small area. The Cumberland on the east, Broad street on the south, the Franklin Pike (now Spruce street) on the west and Line street on the north, embraced it’s limits with ample airspace for all within. Only a few acres, indeed, and yet with confidence, it may be said, that no similar territory in America was more fruitful in historic characters and events…
During all these years there was scarcely a house within the above mentioned narrow limits which might not rightly lay claim to historic interest. Now there is hardly a site but should be marked by a memorial tablet as nearly all houses have given way to the relentless march of improvement…
Naturally the northern declivity of Capitol hill first attracts us. At the northeast corner of Gay and Summer was the residence of Dr. James Roane, son of the distinguished governor, and father of Archibald Roane, because of whose friendship Caleb Cushing lost the high position of chief justice of the United States. Dr. Roane was the first victim of the cholera epidemic of 1833. He was in all respects a magnificent physician. A mural tablet should make the spot where his life and labors adorned his profession and did honor to our good city.
Just opposite at the northwest corner of Gay and Summer, in a house still remaining and but little changed, dwelt for several years the great lawyer, the cultured scholar and the admiral man, Francis Brinley Fogg, who afterward occupied, until his death, a large double house with ample grounds, now the site of the famous Watkins Institute. This Church Street residence was also rendered noted and dear to all the people of Nashville and Tennessee by the literary talent and saintly virtues of Mary Middleton Rutledge Fogg, a woman truly worthy of being classed with the "Marys" of New Testament record. From this Church Street residence also went forth in 1861 Maj. H. M. R. Fogg only living child of an avowed heroic Union adherent and a devoted Southern mother, who was the first of many noble Nashville boys to meet a soldier's honorable death. O, the renowned years of 1862, 1863 and 1864, are full of sad histories attached to many Nashville residences, which for long years to come will furnish sad memories and in more distant time material for romance and poetry.
Resuming our survey of scanty remnants yet remaining, at the northeast corner of Market and Locust Streets, near the L & N railroad may be see portions of what in the 'away-back' was a handsome residence in the best part of the town. Randal McGavock, clerk of the court, and different courts for years, in and out, dwelt there. He was one of the patriarchs of the landed McGavock tribe, who owned the greater part of Nashville's vicinity, and made a mark by their liberal public spirit. He gave the site of the now influential Presbyterian church. He also invited his nephew, Jacob McGavock, to visit him while pursuing his studies under Dr. Priestly at Cumberland college. However young Jacob soon went off with 'Priestly's Pets' to the wars, and was distinguished at Enotochopco for his part in saving the day to Andrew Jackson, a turning point in the latter's career. Naturally all his long life through Jacob was an unswerving Jacksonian Democrat, and his own residence, a typical double brick house with ample grounds and servants' quarters on Cherry street, where now stands the McGavock block, was long the headquarters for that unbending opposition with which the Democratic minority in Davidson county stood out against a proud, imperious Whig majority. And so, naturally, when James K. Polk was elected President of the United States, despite the adverse vote of Tennessee, Jacob McGavock gave him a grand reception and grand banquet, we would now call it, very famous in its day.
In May, 1863, the same house witnessed quite a different scene when the venerable occupant received news, all the way around through Washington City, of the death of his heroic Randal, who fell at the head of the renowned Tenth Tennessee infantry (the Irish regiment) at the battle of Raymond, Miss., and thus forever stamped his name as "hero" upon the part of Grant's invincible steps to wards and into Vicksburg.
Many such memories as these cluster around the historic houses of Nashville. We must refrain. Why does not Nashville furnish a ready pen and a sympathetic heart to commemorate her Confederate boys, as Polk Grundy Johnson, the brave, the eloquent, the true did in his busy life for those of Clarksville.
DURING THE CIVIL
During the occupation of Nashville by the Federal forces, which took place in February, 1862, soon after the fall of Fort Donelson, and continued far into 1865, many residences and public buildings became inseparably connected with the annals of the Union army.
The hospitals alone were about twenty-five in number. all the churches the Catholic and Episcopal only excepted, because of sanitary defects; the university and the female academy, the public schools and many large storehouses were thus occupied. The Cumberland field hospital alone embraced some fifteen acres in West Nashville. In all some 18,000 beds could be furnished. All were well supplied with surgeons, nurse, medicines and comforts.
For three years the great publishing house of the M. E. Church, South was a thoroughly-equipped government printing office. Many residences became headquarters for general officers, commissariat or quartermasters. Dr. John Waters had a handsome residence, northwest corner of College and Bank alley. This was post headquarters, occupied successively by Gens. Robert D. Mitchell, R. S. Granger and John T. Miller.
The Armstrong house on Cherry street near the Maxwell House, was a very live concern under Capt. William Mills, A. Q. M., and Capt. John F. Isom, A. Q. M. and also Capt. A. W. Wills, A. Q. M. The latter was very courteous to the present writer, when, as chancellor, he had the large buildings of the old university property entered upon the rolls as neither deserted nor abandoned: and also he has very kindly furnished memoranda for the present sketch far more than space permits the record.
SITE OF HERMITAGE
The Cunningham residence, now the Hermitage Club, was at times the headquarters of the army of the Cumberland, of the army of Tennessee, and of the military division of the Mississippi. Gens. Buell, Rosecrans, Thomas, Sherman and Grant, all imperishable names, issued orders from this house to mighty hosts during years of uncertain conflict. For a few days this house was headquarters of the entire United States army. Here it was that Grant took command as lieutenant-general and issued his first order as such, early in January, 1864.
Let us resume our more peaceful tour. On Cherry street, No. 129, north, remain portions of the house in which Dr. Felix Robertson, the first white child born in Nashville and the first medical graduate from Tennessee, so long gained reputation as an eminent practitioner and dispensed that genuine, unaffected and yet lavish hospitality which gave fame to the South. Also on the west side of Cherry, a little north, were the residences of Thomas Claiborne, congressman and preacher; of David Craighead, Democratic leader of sturdy independence, with whom James K. Polk made his Nashville home while governor. At that time all Cherry between Cedar and Broad was the center of social life. Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Catron had a large house, a remnant of which remains at Nos. 214-218 North Cherry.
But of all the Cherry street residences the most historic is the present number, 142, north, separated by a narrow new building from Cumberland alley. Here for many years quietly dwelt as a peaceful student, the most celebrated man born in Nashville, William Walker of Nicaragua. A man much misunderstood and much maligned. The logical successor of Crockett and Houston, who but for the unwarranted interference of American and British vessels of war would have places Central America a century in advance, and given the United States free access by water to her Pacific empire.
On Cherry, opposite the Grand Opera House, Leonard P. Cheatham dwelt for years, famous for as elegant bevy of girls as ever graced one household. Also here was reared 'Mars Frank' who certainly contributed his full share to the martial glory of Tennessee on the battlefields of Mexico and his native South.
CEDAR, SUMMER, CHERRY, UNION.
Cedar street from the Square westward was at this time also a central society region, adorned by a large wooden mansion of Thomas Washington and Matthew Watson. specimens of the latter still remain. The present number, 422, is the former residence of Mrs. Felicia Grundy Porter, noted for the hospitable entertainment of strangers, and later on for the self-sacrificing and unstinted efforts of its head in behalf of the Confederate prisoners and refugees, and whose noble work for the Southern cause will never be forgotten. George Washington Campbell, eminent as secretary of the treasury under President Madison, and as minister to Russia, occupied the present capitol grounds, and subsequently the spacious brick house, now the residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop.
On Summer street we note at the southeast corner of Deaderick a little remnant of the house for many years distinguished by the labors of R. B. C. Howell, pastor, theologian and author.
The northwest corner of Cherry and Union is a momento of Josiah Nichol, banker, merchant and liberal citizen, father-in-law of the celebrated Gen. Robert Armstrong, and mainly instrumental in inducing Phillip Lindsley to forsake Princeton and choose frontier Nashville for his life work.
The noted homes of Dr. Boyd McNairy, the friend and host of Henry Clay, and of Sam D. Morgan, that pattern of commercial honor, are now replaced by the splendid business houses on the west side of Summer and north of Church.
On the southwest corner of Summer and Cedar, there remains, not changed, the immense house built by Hugh Kirkman as a family mansion, which has since filled many public functions. Just beyond, on Cedar street, was the modest dwelling of Return J. Meigs, who could live only under the flag of the Union, and in 1861 removed to Washington City, esteemed and honored even then by all his fellow citizens.
For many years, William Carroll, the renowned soldier, governor and philanthropist, dwelt in a house at the southwest corner of High and Union. At the northeast corner the home yet stands which sheltered William K. Bowling, eminent as physician, teacher and editor.
CHURCH, HIGH BROAD.
An ancient landmark but little changed is the dwelling at the northwest corner of Church and High. Dr. Paul F. Eve, the great surgeon of the South, ended his days here, after many years of residence. Next is the large house built by John M. Bass, afterwards much enlarged by E. W. Cole, the scene of brilliant social functions under both owners. Gov. Newton Cannon owned and occupied a house at the southeast corner of Church and Spruce, then the Franklin pike. On this pike, where is now the Warner house, took place the war-time incident which has given Aunt Hettie McEwen an imperishable page in romantic history and shown Confederate soldiers as gentlemen of the highest type.
On Broad street, as it were, on the edge of the city, or town, rather, were three great mansions. That of James Wood stood where is now the front of the Nashville College for Young Ladies. With his two brothers and Thomas Yeatman he formed the famous iron firm of Woods, Yeatman & Co., whose Cumberland Iron Works were destroyed by Federal troops. Also the same parties constituted a model banking firm, which withstood all panics and shocks.
The central of the three houses stood where now stands the United States building, which also followed occupancy by the Shelby Medical College. Its owner was Harry R. W. Hill, the great cotton merchant of New Orleans and the valley, a whole-souled man of whom many pleasant traditions still remain.
The eastern of the three houses may yet be seen as the Broadway hotel, near the corner of Cherry. Thomas Yeatman, its builder was a many with city ideas. His untimely death by the cholera of 1833 put Nashville back many years.
VAUXHALL AND EDGEFIELD.
In the country, southwest of Hill and Woods, a well known suburban resort, the Vauxhall Gardens, was the scene of many public and private entertainments. Here John Bell issued one of his remarkable pronounciamentos known as his Vauxhall speech. The Woods and the Yeatman houses may be looked upon as the Nashville homes of that celebrated and truly great man. He was allied to both these families and they delighted to honor and aid him in all his splendid public career.
However, of all of Mr. Bell's noted kindred, the most distinguished is the little woman whose facile pen and fertile imagination has given to Tennessee a position in the literary world alongside with Cable's Louisiana. Charles Egbert Craddock spent the best years of her youth with her father's family in the Murfree residence on Vauxhall Street, now known as the Plater house.
Outside and around the little Nashville above imperfectly sketched lay a cordon of beautiful sites with famous homes. The University Hill, with its Lindsleys, Rutledges, Woods and their many noted visitors from the East and Europe, would detain us too long. While beyond we find Fairfield, Mansfield, St. Mary's Orphan Asylum and Hospital of the Good Shepherd, localities where for many years Wm. R. Lewis, Ephraim H. Foster, Charles J. Love and others gave receptions to Andrew Jackson and his friends. Over the Cumberland two names with large landed interests overshadowed all. Dr. John Shelby of Fatherland and Nicholas Hobson of banking fame. Edgefield, resultant of a New Yorker's enterprise (M. W. Wetmore), was of a later date and built up from the farms owned by the parties just mentioned.